Massa breaks Merc stranglehold

Spielberg (Austria) : Williams driver Felipe Massa secured his first pole position in six years on Saturday, setting up an exciting duel with Mercedes for today’s Austrian Grand Prix.

The 33-year-old Brazilian outpaced the competition with a fastest lap of one minute and 08.759 seconds in the dying minutes of the qualifying round, to take his 16th career pole, 0.087 seconds ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Massa deprived Mercedes’s current championship leader Nico Rosberg of a third successive pole position, leaving the German trailing by 0.185 seconds with the third fastest time.

“I’m so happy with what’s happened today with us, our team. It’s such a great moment. It’s been a long time since I had my last pole position, which was in Brazil in 2008,” Massa said after the qualifying round.

“For sure we need to concentrate on the race tomorrow; it’s a very difficult, important race for us. But I think it’s a great moment,” he added.

Bottas, who achieved his best ever result today, was similarly ecstatic: “It’s a great achievement. Of course it’s only Saturday but I am really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Mercedes and Williams had already dominated the three practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring this weekend.

But Rosberg and 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton had to watch Massa and Bottas speed ahead on the 4.3-kilometre track.

Hamilton, a four-time Grand Prix winner this season, eventually finished in ninth place.

“I definitely didn’t expect Williams to be ahead of me today but they did a good job,” Rosberg conceded.

Still, he remained in fighting spirit ahead of Sunday’s race, which sees the return of the Austrian Grand Prix after an 11-year absence.

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